Norfolk tennis ace Alfie Hewett is making a career of fighting against the odds after Roland Garros victory
PUBLISHED: 16:45 11 June 2017 | UPDATED: 16:45 11 June 2017
Alfie Hewett is a man that is used to fighting against the odds.
But at 6-0 and 2-0 down and just 23 minutes on the clock in the French Open final, even the youngster at Cantley wondered if there was any way back from this one.
Gustavo Fernandez, the reigning Roland Garros champion, was winning at a canter and Hewett admitted thoughts of a complete wipeout crossed his mind.
Fortunately, such is Hewett’s mental strength, those negative thoughts were soon pushed to one side and gradually he fought his way back into the contest.
The 19-year-old, from Cantley, near Acle, had to save three match points in the tie-break but after prevailing in the second set, he appeared to have broken the spirit of his opponent.
After taking the deciding set 6-2, glory was his and Hewett had a singles title to add to his Wimbledon doubles title he won last year alongside Gordon Reid.
“When you grow up you dream of winning these tournaments, the slams,” said the former Acle High School pupil. “It’s tough to even get into these tournaments as it’s only the top eight that compete so to even be there is an achievement in itself.
“But once you’re there you obviously want to do your best and these are the moments that you train for. It really is a dream come true for me.”
Hewett is earning a reputation on the tennis circuit of never quite knowing when he’s beaten. However, he admitted that things were starting to look a little bleak for him in the second set.
“I was quite stressed on the morning of the match and I think that showed in my play early on,” he said.
“I played like I was nervous but Gustavo also played really well in the first eight games.
“But I just kept doing what I have trained to do. Just take it point by point, game by game and slowly I got back into it.
“You’re taught as you’re growing up that it’s never over until it’s over. I’ve been in those situations before and come back to win.
“I always want to have that attitude of never knowing when I’m beaten and to do it in a grand slam final is extra special.”
There’s a little tournament at SW19 next month that Hewett will now start preparing for and City College graduate admits that to add a Wimbledon singles title to his collection next month would be the ultimate.
“To win both together would be an absolute dream but a lot of work has got to be done before that,” he said.
“I love playing on clay and I feel like it suits my game. On grass it doesn’t suit me quite as much but the nature of it is that anyone can beat anyone.
“I’ve got to get myself in the best physical condition that I can because it’s going to be tough. But I’m up for the challenge and I will do my best to bring home another trophy.”
Hewett expects to go up a place in the world rankings to sixth when they are released today and the youngster revealed that another of his targets is to break into the top four in the world.
“I think I will probably move up a place so that takes me one step closer to getting in the top four in the world, which is a goal of mine,” he said. “The seeding system isn’t quite as important when it’s not an Olympic year but it would be great to get into that.
“It just means that you’re then seeded at event so there’s that added motivation to get into the top four.”
But Hewett will give himself a few days now to rest after his Paris exploits and he showed he knows how to celebrate in style on Saturday night with a picture of him enjoying a takeaway pizza to mark his achievement.
“It’s been a really tough couple of weeks training and I thought I would treat myself!” he joked.
He might be treating himself again at Wimbledon...
World ranking: 7
After being born with a congenital heart defect Tetralogy of Fallot, Hewett was taken to Great Ormond Street Hospital at just two years old.
At age six months, weighing just seven pounds, he underwent surgery to repair two holes in his heart.
At six years old Hewett was diagnosed with Perthes Diseases. He was immediately wheelchair bound, and not allowed to weight bear at all though his hips and legs for the next five years.
The youngster is now in a position where he can weight bear and walk for short periods, using his wheelchair and crutches accordingly, but does still have to deal with lower back pain and leg spasms.
In recent years Hewett has also experienced swelling of the face, eye area, lips, hands, feet, ankles and also occasionally gets hives on his face.
At times he feels totally exhausted and sleeps for extremely long periods of time.